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Too many close calls driver for school bus safety campaign

Too many close calls driver for eastern Waikato school bus safety campaign

Too many close calls is the driver behind an Eastern Waikato preventative road safety campaign aimed at keeping children using school buses safe.

Sergeants Jim Corbett of the Thames Strategic Traffic Unit and Neil Mansill, his Matamata-Piako counterpart, said the current campaign is being driven by the community.

"School bus drivers have been coming in telling us horror stories about near misses involving cars not slowing down for stationary school buses. When spoken to by Police many drivers claim ignorance of the requirement for vehicles travelling in both directions to slow down to 20km/h, said Mr Corbett.

Mr Mansill said the issue of safety around school buses was particularly sensitive in his area with the Waikato's last school bus related death taking place on Matamata's Tower Rd in May 2009.

"That death involved a Matamata Intermediate student who got off the bus opposite his home and was hit by a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction in a 100 km/h speed zone.

"It's been a case of good luck rather than good driver management since then with continuing near misses being reported to us."

Mr Corbett said driver compliance around school buses picking up or dropping off children had become such a safety issue in his area that local transport providers had funded round 20km/h road signs for the rear windows of school buses operating in the Coromandel and Hauraki areas.

"While the alleged lack of driver knowledge of their legal requirements is of a concern, a real positive has been bus operators, local councils and schools all wanting to work with us to prevent further tragedies.

"And it's not just an Eastern Waikato problem. In the 21 years from 1987 to 2007 22 children were killed, 45 were seriously injured and 91 received minor injuries when crossing the road to or from a school bus."

Vehicle speeds around school buses is a worry not just for Police but others as well with groups as diverse as Rural Women NZ, the New Zealand Society of Paediatric Surgeons, Safe Kids, New Zealand Automobile Association, the National Council for Women of NZ and the NZ School Trustees Association all raising concerns about the issue.

"Children can be unpredictable and easily distracted, jumping out from behind a bus at anytime. It's up to drivers to drive to survive and allow themselves plenty of time to react to any surprises.

"The best way to do that is to comply with the requirement of reducing your speed around school buses dropping off or picking up children, a moment's hesitation can lead to a lifetime's regret," said Mr Mansill.


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